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From: =?iso-8859-1?q?Nicholas=20Gevers?= <vermoulian@yahoo.com>
Subject: (urth) The two Typhons
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 06:06:07 


One problem that Wolfe’s twelve-volume Sun Cycle
presents is that of reconciling the details of
Typhon’s reign given by Severian in THE URTH OF THE
NEW SUN with the vast technological achievement
required to build the “Whorl” as described in THE BOOK
OF THE LONG SUN. Severian’s account is of an Urth
sufficiently like his own later one that for a long
time he cannot see any difference: the language,
physical locations, and institutions are very similar,
Nessus and Saltus only somewhat less run down, the
technological level recognisable in many respects,
although the trucks (?) or taluses working on Mount
Typhon are entirely unfamiliar. How, then, could
Typhon have mustered the technical and economic
resources invested in the “Whorl”, resources clearly
infinitely beyond those available to the Autarchs of
one or two thousand years later?

I suggest that the answer is apparent simply in the
terms of the question itself. From URTH, we know a
number of things about Typhon’s policies as a ruler,
notably that his “assessors” collect a tax in human
children, and that he is fond of huge prestige
projects, such as Mount Typhon; we know he desires
immortality. So it is easy to conceive of Severian’s
Typhon wishing to build the “Whorl” and become its
presiding god (Pas). And consider further: what would
the effect on Urth have been of the construction of
the “Whorl”, of the stripping away of so many of its
people and “chems”, its technology, minerals, water?
Answer: Urth would have become the ravaged, pillaged,
denuded, and depopulated world inherited by the
Autarchs. Typhon initially ruled a much richer and
more advanced Urth, but asset-stripped it. In order
that Silk’s Whorl could come to be, Severian’s
impoverished Urth had to be created.

A corollary: the Typhon Severian encounters in SWORD
and in URTH is an abandoned version of the tyrant,
left behind when Pas and his innumerable Cargo
departed Urth. He is still Typhon, and still desires
to rule, but lacks the continued means necessary, his
immortal self having made off with the same. The
experiment with two heads was never going to ensure
immortality; digitization made far better sense, and
the bicephalic ogre of Mount Typhon is a discarded
prototype with a futile will of its own.

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